It seems like we’re inundated with the social message, “don’t let your kids walk all over you”. Even phrases like, “choose your battles” is more like holding up a white flag of surrender, or admitting defeat. There are parents out there who in response to that, would say, “My kid WILL do what I say, when I say it. I’m not their friend, I’m their parent. What I say goes.” The message being that if you have a parenting philosophy in which you do not attempt to control your child, you’re soft, a wuss, and a failure.
At the end of the summer, I gave up trying to establish control over my child. It wasn’t working, not with this child. Instead, I tried to guide her, model for her, and help her. I used redirection, I modified the situation when I could, or I taught, either with words or by example or both. In the last month or so, inspired mostly by unschooler blogs, I started giving up control over other things as well. Things like when to eat, what to eat, and when to sleep. I have tried to adjust my expectations and ideas about how fast something should take, how quickly we should move from one activity to another, how often the house should be cleaned (or stay cleaned), and so on.
I had several main areas where M and I clashed: getting dressed, getting in and out of the car seat, and going to bed. I can say that things are much better with all but the getting dressed bit.
Bedtime: I don’t make her go to bed. Like, for real, I don’t say “it’s time for bed” or tell her to lie down or anything. So far she has chosen to sleep on the couch a few times, but usually I just tell her that I’m tired and I’m going to lie down. The TV is off, the lights in the house are all off, but she is welcome to play. She brings things to the bed sometimes, like little plastic spiders, and sometimes plays with them for a while. She jumps around sometimes. But usually, she lies down eventually and goes to sleep.
Getting in and out of the car: When we leave school, she never wants to get in the car. This would mean a scene in front of her teachers and little friends in the parking lot, so now, in spite of the fact that it looks silly, we play outside of the car for a few minutes. She has even had me hopping like a frog down the sidewalk with her! I think she is just super excited to see me, and can’t calm down enough to get in the car yet. As far as getting out of the car when we get home, I lock up what I don’t want her to get into, and just let her play in the car. This goes on for quite some time! When she’s ready, she comes out.
Getting dressed: Haven’t figured this one out yet. The child wants to live in a state of nakedness. She wants to go out in to 40 degree temperatures naked, or at least, in a t-shift and nothing else. In order to get clothes on her, I’ve had to use bribes (snack or whatever). I would let her wear whatever silly thing she wanted, if only she would wear something!
As far as junk food goes, like I said above, I still can’t bring myself to trust her enough not to just eat candy and nothing else. But bloggers like Home-Ed Life are really inspiring me to loosen up about this, too. (Read their great blog entries about junk food here, very though-provoking!) Should this even be a thing before someone is not yet 3 years old? If I model that I don’t eat junk all the time, and she sees me eating healthy food, will she also do so? Can I take the plunge into trusting her to eat what her body needs, like I’m now trusting her to sleep when her body tells her it’s time? Gosh. I want to, but I’m so schooled when it comes to raising kids and food. I’m so brainwashed I can’t tell if I’m thinking for myself or just regurgitating a lifetime of “knowledge” that has been absorbed.
So yes, I have a two-and-a-half year-old and no, she has no bedtime, she has no screen time limits, and she is never punished. If you think she’s a spoiled brat, you should’ve seen how she behaved when she had all those things! She’s much more pleasant now, I tell ya. If she had responded well to any of that, I have no doubt I’d still be doing it! Just gotta keep on going til you find what works!
P.S. So far, instead of feeling like she’s walking all over me, I feel like we are now walking together (instead of me dragging her kicking and screaming).